A Third Way of Living


Procrastination is a funny thing. I don't particularly enjoy procrastination and in fact I often feel uncomfortable when I procrastinate but I seemingly do it out of my bias towards happiness. Unfortunately this bias comes wrapped inside a misunderstanding in my thinking process. When all that is in my current awareness are variables x and y then it is hard for me to see variable z.

Instant vs Delayed Gratification

I like to read about psychology and about how the human brain functions. I have read numerous studies over the years and one of the concepts that stood out for me was the concept of instant vs delayed gratification. It is one of those concepts that made a lot of sense to me and therefore I innocently reinforced it into my world view. When it came to being productive and achieving worthwhile goals I saw the world in two broad categories. Those that had a bias towards instant gratification and those who had the willpower to delay their gratification. Or as Eric Thomas would say

sacrifice what you are now, for what you will become

When I looked at the world it seemed obvious to me that, under the surface, delayed gratification was the route to follow. This knowledge served me well as it helped me appreciate the value of work, study and self education, but like most concepts, they are incomprehensive. I was looking at the thesis and antithesis while forgetting that there might also be a synthesis.

Blind Spot

As people we often have blindspots that, try as we may, only other people can truly see. It was on a coaching call with Ankush Jain that I was able to see this blindspot for the first time. Our conversation was in relation to becoming a freelance programmer. My goal is to start taking on some freelance projects in my free time with the goal to potentially becoming a full time freelancer.

The Problem

I want to take on freelance work but I have the tendency to avoid the action required to find work. As I was trying to articulate the feeling around this I was getting more confused and words eventually failed me. It was only when Ankush summarised the issue and pointed at what the issue potentially was that I was able to see it for myself. I saw that I viewed freelance work in the spectrum of instant vs delayed gratification. The problem was that in this area my bias towards happiness had overcome me. I saw taking these actions as delaying my gratification and postponing my happiness for when I would become a freelancer.

A Third Way of Living

Fortunately, the answer wasn't a new technique. I didn't have to start lying to myself in an attempt to condition myself into believing I was enjoying something that I wasn't. The issue was that variable z wasn't in my awareness. Variable z in this situation is simply that the concepts of instant and delayed gratification come completely from my own way of thinking. There are plenty of people who enjoy the process, much like I enjoy the process of learning. When I didn't have this insight then it seemed normal to me that I would enjoy learning but I could find the process of looking for work something I had to do. Once I saw that I had made this up it seems a lot less logical for me to keep seeing things in this way.

This doesn't mean that this area will become easy for me now or it will be something I will look forward to all the time. It just means that a balance has been struck. I now realise that there is no line of demarcation between learning and application, other than the imaginary line that I had drawn in the sand.

Did this blog post help? Can you think of an area you struggle with? Do you think about it differently to other similar things you do well? Would you like to have a clearer head? If you have any insights, questions or recommendations feel free to leave a comment or drop me an e-mail.